Instagram for Dummies: Where to Start

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with Instagram. It’s an interesting blend of photo-focused content alongside new additions that have since incorporated music and video. All of these new features are meant to keep it in the running alongside other juggernauts like SnapChat and TikTok. Demographically, it seems to span the gamut, with average heavy users in their teens through middle-age years. 

Although Instagram started as an image-posting platform, all these new features can make it seem overwhelming. But you’ve got to start somewhere – and this week, I’m setting out to help you do just that. Whether you’re a seasoned bookstagrammer with thousands of followers, or a newbie author just starting out with self-promo, I hope this article helps you find your rhythm. 

1. Fill your profile with all the relevant information you can.

This helps your audience find you quickly and easily. Of course, algorithms still play a massive role, but defining who you are to the world is the first step. Pick a pretty profile pic that is clear, professional, and relevant to your work. Avoid selfies like the plague. Instead, opt for a nice photo of you holding your book in natural lighting. Then you move to your bio, where you’ll want to state who you are concisely as possible. Use a hashtag or two if you can fit it in. Emojis also work really well here to show personality and add a little extra color to your page. You’ll want your profile header to give viewers a snapshot of who you are (an editor, author, or something else). Later on, you can even pin relevant content to the top of your profile with the highlights option. For more help with promoting yourself, read this recent article HERE.

2. Aesthetic color schemes matter. 

Stick to a signature color palette that defines your brand for the photos and videos you upload. You can technically change this anytime – but do it with purpose. I like to wait until I start marketing for my latest book concept to change it. And even when I do, I try to do so gradually. An easy way to do this would be to use the same photo filter for every photo. That can be tricky when you bring varied lighting into the mix. Instead, try to offer some variation in the content, but make it aesthetic and matching as you can. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to do this, but these suggestions improve your chances for greater engagement. Pinterest is a great way to get your ideas flowing. If you know where to look, inspiration will find you.

3. Interaction is key on Instagram.

In my college marketing classes, one of the major messages I got was that audiences want to interact with a real human being. They want to see exactly who they’re talking to, and get a look into your life. If you set yourself the goal of leaving comments at least four words long on ten different relevant profiles a day, you’ll see your engagement skyrocket. I definitely don’t do this as much as I should, but it makes perfect sense. If you support others, they’re much more likely to want to support you right back. Even a like is good, but the more recent edits to the algorithm have shifted the more powerful reaction metrics to the little bookmark-shaped “save” option. And of course, these trends are subject to change, but this is what’s going on now, last I heard.

4. Maximize your use of the 24-hour story function.

Those little shiny profile picture frames on your friends’ posts usually mean they’ve uploaded a quick selfie, or a fun interactive getting-to-know-you tag yourself game. By the way, it’s super fun to repost and participate in those – yet another way to make fast friends that can then support you in your author journey. But I’d argue another great use of Instagram stories is to repost your own recent post, perhaps with a little added music to get more attention on it. You can also do the whole selfie thing – and play with the fun filters as well. That portion is probably the biggest Snapchat knock-off, but that’s okay! It can be really fun to mess around with those, or send a quick video message to your followers. If there’s a fun trend floating around, it’s a good idea to jump on that and participate.

5. Introduce longer content with Instagram Reels and IGTV.

These are the long-form, video options of the app. Reels are a direct knock-off from TikTok (and work relatively the same way). You can even integrate TikToks and Instagram to post at the same time for you, which is always a plus. IGTV is Instagram TV, and that’s what you use if you post longer videos on your account. You can even organize themes within them, so that your audience can easily navigate to them under clear categories listed on your page. 

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 

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